For tables within this publication that present data for only or provide a 2-year trend, the rape figures are an aggregate total of the data submitted based on both the legacy and revised UCR definitions. For 5- and year trend tables, the rape figures for the previous year or are based on the legacy definition and the rape figures are an aggregate total based on both the legacy and revised definitions. For this reason, a percent change is not provided.
NCJJ Report Shows Juvenile Crime Keeps Falling, But Reasons Elusive
The UCR Program considers a juvenile to be an individual under 18 years of age regardless of state definition. The program does not collect data regarding police contact with a juvenile who has not committed an offense, nor does it collect data on situations in which police take a juvenile into custody for his or her protection, e. Abram, K. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors among detained youth. Although all counties with data saw declines during this period, county-level rates vary widely; these ranged from 2. In , more than three-quarters of all juvenile felony arrests in California involved youth of color.
The juvenile justice system is responsible for protecting communities from crime and delinquency, holding youth offenders accountable, and rehabilitating them. Policymakers within the justice, education, and social services systems can play a role in improving the way society addresses juvenile crime. The process for adjudicating youth offenders often does not have the intended effect on crime control, and it does not consistently take into account the relative public safety risk or circumstances of individual youth 1. Policy options that could reduce juvenile felonies include: Improving systems of care to address the mental health needs of juvenile offenders, from initial screening or assessment at first contact with the juvenile justice system to provision of appropriate treatment to incarcerated youth 1 Addressing recidivism by reforming policies that increase the likelihood to re-offend, and providing services that decrease it, such as mentoring, behavioral programs, group counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, and assistance in graduating high school 2, 3 Examining and improving existing policies for processing youth offenders through the juvenile justice system; policies should allow for case-specific assessment of an individual's circumstances, the severity of the offense, the public safety risk posed by the youth, and the potential effects of system processing 4.
Also see Policy Implications on kidsdata. Petrosino, A. Redding, R. Juvenile transfer laws: An effective deterrent to delinquency?
Because many of the tables in the published UCR, including the breakdown by age, are based on whichever agencies report in a given year and not on a nationally representative sample, caution must be used in making generalizations to all young people in the United States based on UCR data. This is particularly true with regard to analyses regarding race, because the racial makeup of the areas covered by reporting agencies may not reflect the racial makeup of the country.
The crime index includes the violent offenses of murder and nonnegligent homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and the property offenses of burglary, larceny theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. There are drawbacks to using arrest data as a measure of crime. Arrest statistics do not reflect the number of different people arrested each year, because an unknown number of people may be arrested more than once in a year. For some crimes, no arrests are made. For others, there may be multiple arrests.
Furthermore, not everyone who is arrested has committed the crime for which he or she was arrested. Arrests also depend on a number of factors other than overall crime levels, including policies of particular police agencies, the cooperation of victims, the skill of the perpetrator, and the age, sex, race, and social class of the suspect Cook and Laub, ; McCord, c.
Nor should arrest statistics be confused with the number of crimes committed, because in some cases, the arrest of one person may account for a series of crimes, and in others several people may be arrested for one crime. This is particularly true for young people, who are more likely than adults to commit crimes in a group McCord, ; Reiss, ; Reiss and Farrington, ; Zimring, Snyder contends that this tendency to offend in groups makes arrest statistics an inappropriate measure of the relative proportion of crime attributed to young people.
Checking on Snyder's position, McCord and Conway analyzed a random sample of juvenile offenders in Philadelphia. They found that the number of crimes accounted for by juveniles would be reduced by approximately 40 percent with an adjustment for co-offending. Rather, arrest statistics measure the flow of young people into the juvenile justice system or the criminal justice system.
For this reason, the number of crimes known to police is often a preferred measure of crime Cook and Laub, The UCR provide information on all crimes known to reporting police agencies, whether or not an arrest has been made. There is no information on age of the perpetrator, however, in the data on crimes known to police; thus even if they are a more accurate crime measure, the number of crimes known to police cannot be used to analyze juvenile crime.
Arrest clearance statistics, which measure the proportion of reported crime cleared by arrest or other exceptional means, such as death of the offender , may more accurately portray the proportion of crime committed by young people, according to Snyder But even clearance statistics may overestimate juvenile crime. For example, if young people are more easily apprehended than adults, the proportion of their crimes cleared by arrest would be higher than the proportion of all crimes for which they were responsible Snyder, The proportion of young. Likewise, Reiss and Farrington showed that offending appears less common in the teenage years if the rate is based on the number of offenses which takes into account co-offending committed by juveniles rather than on the number of juvenile offenders.
Another problem with the UCR as a measure of crime is that, regardless of the number of offenses that occur in an incident leading to arrest, only one offense—the most serious—is counted for a detailed discussion of gaps in the UCR see Maltz, This procedure results in less serious crimes being undercounted by arrest statistics and a lack of information on the circumstances surrounding the crime. For example, if a homicide occurs during a robbery, only the homicide is counted. As Maltz points out, this masks the nature of the circumstances surrounding the homicide.
The UCR statistical system is summary-based. That is, each reporting agency reports totals of crimes known to police, of arrests, and of other information. Although summary-based statistics are important, there is a lot of information they cannot provide. For example, it is impossible to determine from such data the number of crimes committed by multiple rather than single offenders or the relationship of the victim to the offender from such data Maxfield, This system reports information by incident instead of by totals for an agency.
NIBRS includes up to 10 different offense types per incident and provides details about all of the offenders and victims, as well as the situational context of the incident. Although NIBRS may have many advantages for researchers and federal agencies, its adoption by states and law enforcement agencies has been slow.
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Roberts reported that cost of implementing the new system was the most common concern cited as an obstacle to the adoption of NIBRS. Other obstacles noted by Roberts include uncertain benefits of NIBRS to the reporting agencies; concern that NIBRS reporting would be too time-consuming for officers; and concern that reporting all offenses in an incident may give the appearance of an increase in crime.
NIBRS may one day provide much useful information about juvenile crime that is currently not available from the UCR, but it is not problem free. NIBRS continues to rely on police to make decisions about how to classify offenses and what information to report. All police reports represent interpretations of events that are usually not witnessed by officials. In addition to reporting totals of homicides, reporting agencies currently must fill out incident-based Supplemental Homicide Reports SHR detailing information about each homicide. Researchers have found inconsistencies between SHR data and police agency records Loftin, and inappropriate classifications of murders as motivated by robbery Cook, Supplemental Homicide Reports may be completed and archived before all the evidence has been gathered, calling into question their validity National Research Council, b.
There is also variation among agencies and over time in how homicide circumstances are recorded Maxfield, These types of problems may be even greater in NIBRS, which requires detailed information on crimes for which fewer police resources are dedicated than for homicides. Information about crimes committed is also available from surveys of crime victims. The National Crime Victimization Survey NCVS , begun in , collects data annually on crime victimization from a nationally representative sample of approximately 43, households.
Persons over the age of 12 in these households are asked about their experience with crime. The NCVS includes crimes whether or not they were reported to the police. Detailed information is collected on the frequency and nature of the crimes of rape, sexual assault, personal robbery, aggravated and simple assault, household burglary, theft, and motor vehicle theft Bureau of Justice Statistics, Victims ' perception of the age of the offender for violent crimes is included in the data collected. Because offenders' age may be difficult for a victim to estimate accurately, caution must be exercised in using NCVS to estimate juvenile crime.
The NCVS does not ask. The NCVS underestimates crimes because it omits crimes to businesses e. It also omits crimes against victims under the age of Nor is information about homicides gathered in the NCVS.
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Because the sampling unit is a household, transient and homeless people—populations at substantially great risk of victimization —are not represented National Research Council, b. Other aspects of the NCVS methods may inflate crime rates. Households are in the sample for three years and are interviewed every six months. Studies that rely on victim reports show that people tend to recall events of the distant past as though they happened more recently.
When households first enter the NCVS, a bounding interview is therefore conducted. Information gathered at this interview is not used except as a corrective for the subsequent interviews. However, households are kept in the survey even if the occupants change. No new bounding interview is done when the household contains new residents. Hence, in these households, there is a greater likelihood that reported victimizations would have occurred outside the six-month survey interval, thereby inflating official crime rates.
There has also been a shift in data collection methods over the years, away from face-to-face interviews to telephone and proxy interviews. The latter interview methods result in fewer victimizations being reported than in face-to-face and victim respondent interviews Steffensmeier and Harer, Nevertheless, the NCVS provides another source of information to compare with UCR arrest data when looking at trends in juvenile violent crime.
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Data on the commission of delinquent acts and crimes are also available from surveys of young people. Self-report data include crimes not known to the police, but they have their own set of drawbacks. Some self-report surveys that are frequently used for examining juvenile crime e. Missing from these data are students who are absent from school when the survey is taken, those who have dropped out of school, and homeless juveniles who are not attending school.
In particular, school dropouts have higher rates of delinquency than those who remain in school. There may be an implicit bias inherent in which schools are selected to be included in the study. In addition, the behav-. National cross-sectional or longitudinal studies that are population-based rather than school-based may provide more valid samples for estimating juvenile crime.
Another problem with self-report data is accuracy of the information provided. Surveys generally indicate higher levels of delinquency than indicated by offenses known to police or arrests. Because police do not know about all offenses, it is difficult to verify the accuracy of the self-report offending data. However, in general, a high proportion of offenses known to the police are reported by respondents, although there is variation by offense Huizinga and Elliott, Some researchers have found the validity of self-report data to vary by race and by gender.
For example, some researchers found that black or nonwhite respondents are less likely to report offenses already known to officials than are whites Hindelang et al. It is not known whether the self-reports or the official records are more accurate. More recently, Farrington et al. In other research Maxfield et al. Maxfield and colleagues suggested that subjects with more recorded official contacts e.
Exceptions to Confidentiality of Juvenile Criminal Records | Nolo
Less is known about the effect of gender on self-reports of offending. Some studies have found that self-reports by males and females are equally valid, whereas others have found that females are less likely to report being arrested, even when they were convicted Maxfield et al. It may be that girls and women experience more social stigma concerning their criminal behavior than do boys and men and are therefore less willing to report it to interviewers.
Males, in contrast, have been found less willing than females to report a history of childhood sexual abuse Widom and Morris, Maxfield et al. Each type of data for analyzing crime trends has advantages and disadvantages. It is important to keep the weaknesses of the various types of data in mind whenever crime rates are discussed. In the following sections, trends in juvenile crime, based on the three different datasets, are discussed and compared.
Overall arrest rates in the United States have increased over the past three decades for all age groups Figure In , arrest rates were 28 percent higher than in The increase in arrest rates does not necessarily mean that crime had grown by 28 percent. The arrest rate can be influenced by changes in policy, in police practices, and in the number of offenders arrested per crime.
In fact, victim reports of overall crime indicate fairly consistent decreases since the early s. The picture of crime becomes more complicated when broken down by age and offense. Official crime rates are based on data reported by police agencies to the FBI about the index crimes of homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault—which make up the violent crime index—and burglary, larceny and theft, auto theft, and arson—which make up the property crime index. In , there were a total estimated 12,, index crimes both violent and property known to police, 2,, arrests for index crimes, and 14,, arrests for all crimes including status offenses in the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, The vast major-.
Source: Arrest data from Federal Bureau of Investigation Arrests of those ages 10 to 17 accounted for In , when those ages 10 to 17 were 11 percent of the population, Not only do young people account for a small percentage of all arrests, but also the vast majority of arrests of those ages 10 to17 are for nonindex crimes 73 percent of arrests in , which are less serious than index crimes see Table In , only 4 percent of juvenile arrests were for index violent crimes and less than one-tenth of one percent of their arrests were for homicide.
Even in , at the height of the violent crime wave that began in the mid to late s, only about 6 percent of all juvenile arrests were for violent crimes and about two-tenths of one percent were for homicide. Young people are much more likely to be arrested for property crimes than for violent crimes. In comparison, in , about 5 percent of arrests of those over age 18 were. The likelihood of arrest differs by race, gender, and area of the country. For young people under 18, blacks and males have consistently higher arrest rates than whites and females, respectively, for both violent crimes and property crimes.
In , males accounted for 83 percent of arrests of those under 18 for violent crimes and 72 percent of arrests for property crimes.
In , only 15 percent of those under age 18 in the United States were black whites made up 79 percent and other races were 6 percent of the juvenile population , yet blacks made up Distributions for adults are similar, with blacks accounting for a disproportionate 40 percent of violent crime arrests and 35 percent of property crime arrests, compared with whites at 58 percent for violent crimes and 63 percent for property crimes, and others at 2 percent for both violent crimes and property crimes.
A more thorough discussion of racial disproportionality and possible reasons for it appears in Chapter 6. The concern in recent years over juvenile crime has centered on violent crime. Indeed, it appears that there was a significant upswing in violence among juveniles and adults. As can be seen in Figure , beginning in the mid- to late s, there was a large increase in arrests for violent crimes not only among juveniles to year-olds , but also among adults ages 18 to 24 and 25 to Arrests for violent crimes of those 35 and older also increased, but more gradually and not nearly as much as for the younger groups.
Since the mids, arrest rates for violent crimes have dropped dramatically for all age groups and are approaching the rates of the early s. Note that for federal data collection purposes, Hispanic is not considered to be a race, but rather an ethnicity. Hispanics are included in both black and white counts.
The UCR do not provide data by race for individual ages, but rather for those under 18 and for those 18 and older. Victim reports of violent crimes in which the perpetrator was thought to be under the age of 18 show somewhat different trends, although both indicate increases beginning in the late s through the early s and declines at the end of the century. The juvenile violent crime rate based on victim reports remained fairly flat from to , then increased between and see Figure By , when arrest rates according to the FBI were close to their peak, the victimization rate had returned to the level of the rate.
Victim reports of serious violent crimes by adults, however, show a fairly steady decline, dropping and staying below rates since , with an increase almost back to levels in , then dropping again. Victim reports indicate a much higher rate of violent offending by young people and by adults than do arrest rates. Self-reports of violent behavior by juveniles produce even higher rates of offending, but the questions used in such surveys as Monitoring the Future 4 may measure less serious behavior than that which results in arrest or victim reports.
For example, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which interviewed a representative sample of 9, youngsters between the ages of 12 and 16 in , found a prior-year assault rate of 12, per , Snyder and Sickmund, The samples in the two surveys are different, with Moni-.
Monitoring the Future is an annual school-based survey of high school seniors that has been conducted since The differences in both the samples and questions may account for the difference in reported rates. Violence encompasses a wide range of acts, from the threat of harm to assault and homicide. It is instructive to look separately at the various offenses that make up the FBI violence index.
Figure shows the arrest rates by age group for the violent crimes of homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault the four crimes that make up the FBI violent crime index since Note that the scales on the y-axes differ for each offense. There are distinctly different patterns for each of the violent index crimes. Arrest rates for juveniles are lower than the rates for to year-olds for all four violent crimes and lower than the rates for to year-olds for homicide, rape, and aggravated assault.
Figure shows the change in arrest rates for the violent index crimes since by age group. The increase in arrests of to year-olds for violent crimes is most pronounced in arrests for aggravated assault and homicide. Arrests for aggravated assault peaked in at 3. Rape and robbery increased less, peaking at 1. The increase in juvenile arrest rates for homicide and aggravated assault was not only larger than for rape and robbery, but also much larger among juveniles than among the older age groups. Thus, although juvenile arrest rates for each of the violent crimes were lower than rates for to year-olds throughout the period, the increase in arrest rates for to year-olds was greater than the increase for to year-olds for both homicide and aggravated assault.
Homicide arrest rates for to year-olds and to year-olds rose sharply beginning in the mids, peaked in , and then began to decline steeply see Figure The homicide arrest rates for to year-olds paralleled rates for the younger groups until the mids, after which the older group's rates gradually declined. Data sources other than arrest statistics are available for studying homicide, and those sources may be somewhat more accurate than arrest data.
Recently, 8th and 10th grade samples were added to Monitoring the Future. We have used only the 12th grade sample to have the longer time trend. The FBI receives these data on about 80 to 90 percent of all known homicides. Information from medical examiners ' reports is compiled each year for all known homicides. Although the NCHS data do not provide information on the perpetrators, the data serve as a useful check on the number of homicides.
Using Supplemental Homicide Reports data, corrected for underreporting by information from NCHS, Cook and Laub analyzed homicide commission and victimization rates for to year-olds and to year-olds. They found that victimization and commission rates for both age groups followed similar trends, increasing rapidly in the late s, and beginning to decrease in the early s. The pattern of homicide commission for these younger age groups differed from those over 25, for whom homicide commission rates were declining as the younger groups experienced a sharp increase.
Rates for young adults to year-olds were higher than rates for adolescents to year-olds or for older groups. Within the adolescent group, homicide commission varied by age. The number and rate of homicide offenders known to the police are consistently higher for older teenagers than for younger ones Figure The peak in homicides in the early s was also greatest for older adolescents.
The increase in homicide victimization and commission was particularly pronounced among young black males. Cook and Laub note that the increase in the black juvenile homicide rate began about three years earlier than that of white juveniles, and it was greater both proportionally and in absolute count.
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